Pommies in a spin over Test selection
CRICKET: Australian captain Michael Clarke mischievously, and accurately as it turned out, announced England's team for the first Test in Brisbane one week ahead of the match.
Of course there had been virtually no issues for English selectors ahead of that contest.
Despite uncertainty over the tourists' line up for the second Test starting in Adelaide today, brought on by the mauling at the Gabba and No.3 batsman Jonathan Trott having returned home to deal with a stress-related illness, Clarke was prepared yesterday to have another stab at who might be in the England XI.
The skipper said he thought seamer Tim Bresnan would replace Chris Tremlett, rejecting speculation Monty Panesar would be brought in as part of a twin spin attack with Graeme Swann, and said he expected Zimbabwean-born Gary Ballance to bat at No.6 with Joe Root moving up to No.3 to replace Trott.
"I think spin is going to play a big part. We've got a lot of right handers throughout our order but I think they will go safety, I think they will go Bresnan, I think they will go Ballance," Clarke said.
England's captain Alastair Cook did his best to muddy the waters, saying the drop-in wicket certainly looked as though it might be conducive to turn when asked whether Panesar could line up with Swann for just the 11th time.
"I think it is a serious option. The wicket looks good. I haven't seen it today, but it looked quite dry yesterday," Cook said.
"It would be wrong to look at the Australian side and think, 'this is what they would least like us to do'. We must do what we want for the conditions."
Panesar certainly gave the impression on Tuesday that he was under serious consideration, spending 15 minutes in the middle with spin bowling coach, Mushtaq Ahmed. They appeared to be speaking the language of spin bowlers, assessing wind direction and which end might be more suitable for the left-armer.
Bringing in Bresnan to partner Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, or giving Tremlett one more chance, does seem the more likely option, however. The last time England played two spinners in a Test match in Australia was in 1990-91 when Eddie Hemmings and Phil Tufnell teamed up on the traditionally spin-friendly Sydney wicket. And the last time it happened in Adelaide was back in the 1986-87 series when John Emburey and Phil Edmonds sent down 149 of England's 261 overs in the match.
Clarke said the ankle injury he sustained at training on Monday would not keep him out of the match.
He also ended speculation all-rounder James Faulkner would come into the line-up at the expense of batsman George Bailey, confirming Australia would take an unchanged XI into the match.
"When the selectors hand the same team it is always positive. It will be an unchanged side," Clarke said.
"We take a lot of confidence out of the first Test."